As the growing season comes to a close, with the first frost date less than a month away (despite the current weather) some might be wondering how to get the last of their fruiting crops like tomatoes, peppers, and squash to ripen.
If you have winter squash that are still green or are just starting to turn you can cut off the tips of the squash vines, and any small fruit that will definitely not ripen, to force energy into the ripening fruit you leave. If you still have under-ripe squash or pumpkins on the vine when a frost is imminent, know that if they have some color to them it is possible to bring them inside in a warm sunny spot and they might continue to ripen off the vine. However, this works better with some varieties than others. Generally Cucurbita moschata squash ripens off the vine much better than Cucurbita pepo squash varieties. So things like butternut, Tromboncino, and Seminole pumpkin will ripen off the vine much more successfully than a spaghetti squash, acorn squash, or carving pumpkin. It’s also important to remember that green immature squash of all varieties can be eaten as if it were zucchini. So if you have very green squash still left when frost comes it may not ripen but you can always make a whole bunch of zucchini bread and freeze it.
If you have peppers you are hoping to ripen you will follow many of the same principles as squash. If you really want the ones on there to ripen it’s a good idea to start pruning off the green ones (and eating them as green peppers) so energy is forced into ripening the big ones on there instead of growing new ones. If a frost is imminent, the best way to deal with peppers is to harvest the small peppers off the plant as green peppers but leave the full size under ripe ones on the plant. Then uproot the whole plant and hang it inside. The energy from the leaves, roots, and stems will go into ripening the peppers you left on there and a surprising number of them will ripen.
Last but certainly not least is tomatoes. Perhaps not surprisingly dealing with your tomatoes at the end of the season will look similar to how you deal with peppers and squash. It’s a good idea to trim off tomato flowers to force energy into ripening the fruit you already have. When frost becomes imminent you can remove the small green ones and leave the full sized ones on the plant then pull out the whole plant and hang it inside to ripen. You can also remove the full sized tomatoes and let them ripen off the vine. If you remove the tomatoes to ripen, make sure to follow a few rules. Do not stack them, lay them out in a single layer, not touching each other in a sunny window to ripen. You can also place them in a breathable container like a paper bag with a banana, which releases ethylene gas that helps speed the tomatoes ripening. The green tomatoes you end up with that are not full sized will not ripen but still have a lot of great uses. Green tomatoes are most commonly fried but there are many other things you can do with them. You can use green tomatoes to make salsa verde, relish, pickles, and many other dishes, so don’t throw them out!